March against Monsanto mobilises millions
More than two million people participated in peaceful protests and marches against seed giant Monsanto over the weekend in 436 cities throughout the world. In London, several hundred attended a rally in Parliament Square to warn of the dangers of genetically modified food and of the powerful food companies involved in their production.
Photo report by Peter Arkell
Some called for a boycott of Monsanto, while others demanded that foods made from GM crops be properly labelled. There were much larger turn-outs in the US, with 6,000 taking to the streets in Portland, Oregon. There were also large protests in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina where Monsanto’s GM soya beans and corn seeds command almost 100% of the market. They carried signs saying “Monsanto—Get Out of Latin America”.
The March Against Monsanto movement began only a few months ago when founder and organiser Tani Canal created a Facebook page in February calling for a rally against the company’s practices. She worked with other bloggers including Anti-Media.org and A Revolt.org digital anarchy to promote international awareness of the event. She called the turn-out over the week-end “incredible” and credited social media for spreading news of the event.
GM crops are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist Monsanto’s own insecticides and herbicides (such as Roundup) which are sold to the farmer as part of the deal. These chemicals are toxic to most other plants and animals, but not to the modified plants. Most corn, soybean, rice and cotton crops grown in the US have been genetically modified, as have crops in large parts of South America, the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere.
Critics say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment. Many of the plants that bees and other insects need for food are wiped out by the chemicals sprayed onto the crops. Critics accuse the company of trying to take control of the global food market, and of bullying small farmers to accept Monsanto seeds, with promises of higher yields. The company is the largest owner of seeds and has bought up many small seed companies round the world.
They have a long list of patents to protect their scientific research, and are not slow to act against any infringement of their terms and conditions in the courts. They have recently bought a company that gives them a patent on so-called “terminator seeds” which self-destruct after a year, preventing farmers from taking part of their seeds for re-planting the next year.
28 May 2013